There’s No Job A Girl Can’t Do

November 8, 2019

Raised by a single mom who made sure her two girls knew how to be independent, Prathima Gollapudi, senior design engineer with large mining trucks, quickly learned to ignore gender stereotypes. 

“There was no job a girl could not do,” said Gollapudi. “I have now taught my own daughter that Daddy can cook and do laundry and Mommy can change a tire.”

From learning how to disassemble, and reassemble, household items to having the confidence to be herself in a room full of men, Gollapudi’s upbringing helped her ignore the fact that she was the only female in her Mechanical Engineering master’s class and the only female engineer on her immediate team when she started at Caterpillar in 2006.

As the professional development chair for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) in Tucson and a Caterpillar liaison for Junior Achievement — a global non-profit that fosters work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills — Gollapudi has the first-hand understanding of how important science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education is for children of all genders. 

“There is a disconnect between the academic outcome and the needs of a growing industry in focused STEM domains,” she said. “It is very important for everyone – academic professionals, corporations, entrepreneurs and individuals — to help bridge this gap to build and sustain a strong pipeline for future professionals.”

Specifically in mining, where only about 16% of the workforce is female (according to a recent Workplace Gender Equality Agency Report), the gender gap is being acknowledged and deliberate efforts are being made to strike a balance. Studies have shown, for example, that sites with more balanced gender representation in the workforce perform better and have fewer injuries. 

At Caterpillar, initiatives like our Women’s Initiative Network help promote awareness and programming for women who want to pursue careers in STEM-related fields. Programs such as the Introduce a Girl to STEM and Girls Experience Mining provide young girls the opportunity to see live demonstrations and get hands-on learning experience around mining and technology to learn more about these industries and hopefully, encourage them to join team Caterpillar one day, like Gollapudi. See more details on these events below.

“Being equipped with the basics of mathematics, engineering and sciences have constantly given me an edge while translating the customer needs into the technical specifications needed to define and set the new design and manufacturing parameters,” she said. “We cannot afford to not include both genders equally in this quest for a better tomorrow.” 

young girl playing with Cat toy young girl playing with Cat toy

Girls Experience Mining Is A “GEM” 

Approximately 80 seventh and eighth grade girls from underserved schools experienced how STEM is incorporated into careers within the mining industry, and the broad range of opportunities available to them in the future, at Girls Experience Mining (GEM) day held at Tinaja Hills Demonstration Center, Green Valley, Arizona. The event was hosted to educate young women about the mining industry, increase their interest in it and show them routes to enter the profession through opportunities from STEM.

“If what you see around you wasn’t grown, it was made from minerals mined from the earth,” said Jean Savage, Surface Mining & Technology vice president, as she welcomed students to the event. “There are many careers for you to consider related to mining and there are numerous opportunities available to you through STEM education.” 

The participants were treated to an equipment demonstration and got to walk around and see Cat® machines up close. Then, they were assigned to teams before launching into activities designed to simulate mining-related challenges. Additionally, a mining and STEM expo featured booths from educational partners, mining companies, professional organizations and other mining-related businesses. The students learned of numerous community resources to support them, and opportunities for future STEM and mining careers.

Introduce a Girl to STEM Event 

Studies show that girls lose interest in STEM during both middle school and high school for a variety of reasons. Educating them before they lose interest, as well as providing inspiration and role models, helps improve the pipeline for females in STEM and betters our company and communities. Engaging in a fun, yet educational event can also promote limitless possibilities for their careers.  

For the past seven years, Caterpillar has hosted an annual Introduce a Girl to STEM event in Peoria, IL in conjunction with the Women’s Initiative Network Central Illinois chapter.  This year approximately 400 middle school girls and over 30 Caterpillar volunteers spent two days at the Mossville Tech Center participating in hands-on experiences in technology and solutions and learning more about STEM careers. 

Introduce a Girl to STEM Event Introduce a Girl to STEM Event

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